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Posts Tagged ‘Pretty Yende’

I remember the Met’s old production of Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore, even though I had never seen it live. One can still see it in two different DVDs, both with Luciano Pavarotti. One of them features Judith Blegen, the other one has Kathleen Battle. Having seen it on video makes for an experience for those who have the opportunity to see the “new” production at the Met. In its cardboard sceneries and kind-of period costumes and cuteness it looks a hundred years older than the “old” production.

It is also more expertly directed and truly better acted than what we can see on video. The comedy timing is almost always impeccable and even individual chorus members seem to be aware of their “motivations”. Its 2012 premiere had Anna Netrebko and Matthew Polenzani, who happens to be this afternoon’s Nemorino. It is praiseworthy that his long experience in it does not turn out calculated or bureaucratic, but rather as well-mastered and effective in his portray of the likable but unsexy.

Vocally, his performance is less persuasive. His once dulcet tenor now sounds quite grainy and open-toned. Even if a smoother legato would make all the difference in the world, he generally sings with poise and sense of style. Curiously not in his big aria, in which he sounded oversentimentalized, effortful and overreliant on falsetto. Someone like Pavarotti could get away with Verdianizing his Donizetti, but that’s an entirely different voice.

I had never seen Pretty Yende live before and YouTube videos did not made me look forward to it. Hearing her in the theatre made has the opposite effect on me. Her aim in life seems to be proving that you can sing with the full range of overtones and still sound bright and focused. There are moments when she really manages it and the sound is simply gorgeous. There are also moments when you can see that she is negotiating in her mind if she should sing the next note bright and light or full and round. Normally, the bright and light option is the right answer, but I reckon she likes the full and round better. Those are the moments when the voice sounds smoky and unfocused – and I could bet that this is when the microphone does not flatter her. Anyway, Ms. Yende got me under her spell with her unbridled joie de chant. She is on stage as if she were in the place she has always wanted to be and her singing sounds like someone who is doing her favorite thing in the world. She tackles every trill, run and mezza voce passages not as challenges but as opportunities to show the audience how thrilling these effects are. Moreover she has a lovely stage presence and an irresistible smile. She made this performance something refreshing.

Davide Luciano’s Belcore was aptly light and flexible and he managed the be funny without exaggerations. Ildebrando d’Arcangelo, on the other hand, did not seem comfortable with clowniness and tried to do his Dr. Dulcamara in his own hipster-ish way. That has somehow and surprisingly worked. There was something wild and potentially dangerous about this con guy, and that made the show more interesting. With the right director, it could even be revelatory. He sang it accordingly, without buffo effects and in an important tonal quality, forceful, firm and dark.

Conductor Domingo Hindoyan seems to have the right approach to this score. He kept the proceedings light, clear and forward-moving, but the Met orchestra (probably not in is A-team version given that there is Parsifal to be played in the evening) sounded opaque and unfinished, entirely un-Italianate. Sometimes he would try an accelerando effect to mark the change of atmosphere, but his musicians would sometimes feel ill-at-ease following his beat then. Not the singers, to whom Mr. Hindoyan was always alert. Unfortunately, the chorus was in very poor shape, especially the women. Finally, a hearable Gianetta would make all the difference in the world in ensembles .

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